If you were to search “what is branding” in an online search engine of your choosing, Google, Bing, Youtube, and so on the results will provide countless answers to this question. I say that in the literal sense, you will find countless answers and the most incredible part of this fact is that only 25% of the results shown are the same or similar in nature.
We’re grossly miseducated on the topic of branding, and for this reason, and this reason alone is why the concept of branding is so confusing. When you can search and find that branding is “your logo,” “your name,” no…no… it’s “your marketing,” “it’s your mission,” “it’s your tagline,” and so on, the inability to align universal interpretation is inevitable.
Astonishingly, all of the answers referenced above are correct, branding encompasses all of these things, but they do not define the term. I learned this first-hand when in 2012 I began the journey of pivoting my professional career toward becoming a brand expert and found myself informed & also confused on the topic of branding.
My immersion into the world of branding began with me reading any book or article on the subject. That year ended with me reading over 20 books, several hundred articles and me left scratching my head in confusion. After reviewing my notes on each piece of content I had read, I found there lacked a cohesive message. I learned a lot about branding, but could not explain what it was in a concise sentence.
The most important thing I learned about branding
I again reviewed my notes and began segmenting the information encapsulated in the books and articles I read. I placed key takeaways from each piece of content on Post-it Notes, creating a wall worthy of a handclap from Claire Danes character Carrie Mathison on Homeland. One of the walls in my home office was covered in different colored squares of paper, but I took away something significant from this process. Branding is not a single tract or a term with ten different meanings; it’s composed of two-segmentations – Internal & External.
Segmentation 1: Internal Branding
Internal branding is the process of building the foundation of your brand and business. Think of defining your positioning as your foundation. The power of self-awareness, knowing precisely who you are, what you do, and whom you do it for is invaluable. These are just three of the twelve elements of positioning, but when fully defined the probability of your endeavor succeeding will drastically increase.
A weak foundation leaves you vulnerable in ways that can disrupt and even collapse your business. Place a focus on the internal elements of your brand before ever thinking on your logo, website, and other promotional touch-points.
Segmentation 2: External Branding
External branding is the process of developing marketing touch-points that convey your defined messaging & visually differentiate your brand from others in the minds of your target audiences. This refers to your logo, tagline, website, color scheme, voicemail, etc.
Defining the internal elements of your brand before approaching the external elements increases the effectiveness of your promotional material and mediums you create. Marketing initiatives are not cheap; they require the investment of your time and dollars. Focusing on promoting your brand over positioning your brand will only result in a waste of resources & constant moments of “let’s go back to the drawing board.”
The concept of internal & external branding is not a revolutionary methodology that I discovered, it has been referenced for years, but is often overlooked & understated by those who teach and speak on the topic of branding. However, my ability to discover this approach while conducting my own research has impacted my mindset & development process. I’ve found throughout my career that emphasizing getting the internal side of branding correct first, enables the external elements of your brand to have greater reach, impact, and success in the long term.